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Long before helicopter scare,airport was crying for a helipad

The close shave involving an Air India aircraft and a helicopter from President Pratibha Patil’s troupe on Monday might have turned the spotlight on the need for a helipad at Mumbai airport,but this was not the first time the need was felt.

Written by Shashank Shekhar | Mumbai | Published: February 12, 2009 2:22 am

The close shave involving an Air India aircraft and a helicopter from President Pratibha Patil’s troupe on Monday might have turned the spotlight on the need for a helipad at Mumbai airport,but this was not the first time the need was felt.

Following the 26/11 attacks and the difficulties faced by the National Security Guard (NSG),a proposal for helipads at the Mumbai and Delhi airports was initiated at the behest of the Civil Aviation Ministry. “Setting up of helipads at the Mumbai and Delhi airports is under active consideration of the ministry and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) is in consultation with the Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) and the Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) to incorporate the helipads in their masterplan,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry.

“We are at present looking at specific sites and are in talks with the DGCA. A number of options are being considered,” said a senior official of MIAL.

While the Ministry’s proposal is one of the fallouts of the Mumbai terror attacks,a simultaneous state government plan is also under way,envisaging a new heliport that would assist quick connectivity for visiting VIPs.

“The idea has been there for quite some time and it’s a practice very popular in western countries,” said Sudhir Thakre,Secretary of Civil Aviation,General Administrative Department (GAD),Maharashtra. He said the upcoming heliport will be an all-purpose one built on a build,operate and transfer (BOT) basis.

Work on a heliport had begun on a government plot in Cuffe Parade but was stopped following a court order on pollution.

Other sites under consideration include Backbay Reclamation,NCPA,IMS Vikrant,Bandra Kurla Complex and Wadala Truck Terminal,recommended by an inter-departmental group of secretaries of the government.

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